The Padres have re-signed reliever José Castillo and catcher Webster Rivas to minor league contracts, according to Chris Hilburn-Trenkle of Baseball America. Both players were cut from San Diego’s 40-man roster at the end of the season.
Castillo tossed 38 1/3 innings across 37 relief appearances for the Friars in 2018. He averaged 94.9 MPH on his fastball that year and posted excellent numbers, looking to be a high-leverage reliever in the making. Castillo worked to a 3.29 ERA with a huge 34.7% strikeout rate and a fine 8% walk percentage in his age-22 campaign.
Unfortunately, Castillo has barely pitched since then on account of a brutal run of injuries. The southpaw missed the first four months of the 2019 season due to a flexor tendon strain. He returned to make one MLB appearance, then suffered a season-ending hand ligament tear. Castillo missed the entire 2020 season dealing with a teres major strain, and ran into perhaps his greatest setback of all last March. Early in Spring Training, the Venezuela native went down with a forearm issue that necessitated Tommy John surgery.
Despite only making one big league appearance over the past three years, Castillo accrued enough service time while on the injured list to qualify for arbitration this offseason. The Friars non-tendered him rather than carry him on the 40-man roster all winter, but they apparently quickly worked to bring him back on a minor league deal. Given that he’s only ten months removed from the Tommy John procedure, the 26-year-old is probably targeting a midseason return to the mound.
Rivas, a 12-year minor league veteran, was rewarded for his persistence with a long-awaited MLB debut last May. The right-handed hitter got into 24 games, tallying 77 plate appearances in a reserve capacity behind the dish. Rivas spent more time with the Padres’ top affiliate in El Paso, where he hit .252/.339/.393 with five home runs across 186 plate appearances.
San Diego outrighted Rivas off the 40-man roster at the end of the year. Presumably, he’ll get a chance to partake in big league Spring Training, although it seems likely he’ll open the season with El Paso. The Padres already have quite a bit of catching depth on the 40-man roster. Austin Nola looks like the #1 option if healthy, with Víctor Caratini, the recently-acquired Jorge Alfaro and top prospect Luis Campusano all competing for playing time.